Talk about the recent findings of the Arizona State
University study on Idaho Russet potatoes.
Seth Pemsler: Arizona State University economist Timothy
Richards conducted a study on bagged, Idaho-branded russet
potatoes using retail-scan data over a two-year period ended
April 17. The numbers indicate that Idaho potatoes have a
higher consumer preference over non-Idaho russets, explaining why they command a premium retail price or mark-up. The research
also showed less price elasticity; therefore, when prices rise on Idaho russets, they lose significantly less volume than non-Idaho russets do.
What do the findings mean for grocery retailers?
SP: The findings suggest that if retailers do not discount Idaho russets
to the same degree as non-Idaho russets, there will not be a significant
effect on volume sold. The study revealed overall price elasticity of bagged
Idaho russets hovers at 1. 26 compared with 1. 91 for bagged russets from
Also, Idaho russet potatoes prove least vulnerable to competitive pricing.
Scan data of 5- and 10-pound bags reveals the highest profit margin potential when compared with potatoes from other origins, so even if a retailer
pays 10-cents/bag more for Idaho russets, they can charge 20-cents/bag
or more at retail.
To what does the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) attribute the
consumer’s preference of Idaho russets?
SP: We believe it is due to the quality product our growers produce combined with the IPC’s long-running promotional programs, which work to
strengthen Idaho potatoes’ premium positioning. Since 1937, we have
worked continuously to position our product as premium. IPC’s consumer
promotions (including the current “missing Idaho Potato Truck” promotion),
national advertising (which ties in the missing truck storyline
in national TV commercials), award-winning retail and foodservice ad campaigns have all contributed to Idaho potatoes’
What inspired this season’s IPC retail ad campaign?
SP: This year’s advertising campaign continues the adven-
tures of the Idaho Potato Field Force, reintroduced last season. We
designed the original Field Force comic ad campaign to familiarize grocery
produce managers with regional IPC retail promotion directors. It show-
cased the variety of ways promotion directors support category managers
via Idaho potato promotions, market data, category analytics and more.
This season, retail promotion directors—Ken Tubman, Bill Savilonis, and
Kent Beesley—transform into their alter egos as the Idaho Potato Field
Force and share a more personal side of themselves. The current cam-
paign delves into each promotion director’s interests and geographic loca-
tions. We see comic strip style representations of “Super Ken” stretch-
ing 20 feet into the air to catch a foul ball while cheering on his favorite
baseball team, “Super Bill” washing his classic Mazda RX- 7 sports car so
quickly that he resembles a whole pit crew, and “Super Kent” so strong that
he can carry enough gear for an entire campsite on his back while hiking
up the steepest terrain with ease—each meant to engage and build rapport
between produce directors and category managers. While the Field Force
participate in these variety of activities, they are “Always Thinking About
Your Business!” fittingly, the campaign’s recurring tagline.
We have received extremely positive response from produce managers,
senior category managers, and retail advertising/marketing managers, too.
Many refer to the featured promotion directors by their superhero personas and some even ask them to sign autographs. This all contributes to the
premium position of Idaho potatoes.
SETH PEMSLER, vice president of retail and international for the
IDAHO POTATO COMMISSION, says retailers do not have to discount
Idaho potatoes to the same degree as non-Idaho potatoes.